Barry Dixon

Born in Southport Queensland on 19th July 1947, my first home was on a small dairy farm at Beenleigh. My father was a Milk Tester at the Southport Milk Factory and in 1950 at the age of 3, we moved to Wandoan where my parents purchased a dairy farm ‘Malabar’. I spent my childhood growing up on the farm and going to the Wandoan State School until Year 8 (scholarship). I then went away to boarding school at Slade School Warwick. Modes of transport to school included – by horseback, push bike then school bus to school in Wandoan and by steam train and rail motor from Warwick to home for holidays from boarding school. 

After completing my four wonderful secondary education years at Slade, I returned home for the Christmas holidays and then in late December 1964 I went to Brisbane. For a week I stayed with family friends at Annerley to look for a job, not knowing what I wanted to do. Tom Haire, the Mactaggart’s Wandoan Branch Manager, had suggested to my father that while I was in Brisbane, I should call into Mactaggart’s Head Office in Creek Street to inquire about a job.

“Malabar” Homestead Wandoan

I did this and left my name and home phone number. I also called into Primaries and did the same. I dropped around a few other places in the inner city Brisbane, looking for a job. After a week I returned home and a few days later a phone call came from Jim Heading of Mactaggart’s wanting to know if I could go to Miles Weaner Sale for an interview with Doug Mactaggart. I went to Miles, had a five minute interview with Mr D C Mactaggart who gave me a job as an office boy in Brisbane Head Office and said I could start then and there at the sale if I wanted to. I didn’t.

Mactaggart’s H/O 1965

I started as an office boy at Mactaggart’s Head Office, 43 Creek Street Brisbane, the following week, boarding at St Oswald’s Youth Hostel on North Quay. Duties included getting and opening mail, making morning and afternoon teas, city errands, Cannon Hill Pig Sales and Cattle Sales. My first promotion after 4 months was as the Tally Clerk at the Mactaggart’s Hide and Produce Store at Teneriffe. John Deane was my boss and Digger Jarrett was the Produce Department manager, but more about that to follow. After being at the Hide and Produce Store for about 3 months, I was transferred to Tara – and the rest is history.

After the office boy time & Cannon Hill pigs & cattle sales & a stint at the hide store at Teneriffe I was sent to Mactaggart’s Tara Branch. In Brisbane I boarded up on Quay Street at St Oswald’s House where a C of E priest from my Slade School Warwick days was in charge & not long after joining Mactaggart’s I brought my first car from a car yard in the Valley. A Toyota Tiara sedan which I drove to Tara around mid October 1966. Also went to my first rock concert at City Hall – The Rolling Stones.

Mactaggart’s Tara – 1966 to 1968.

Tara was a great town & district back then mixed farming & wool & quite a wealthy area from Tara to The Gums Moonie Meandarra & Glenmorgan. The town was a buzz & parties with other agents & school teachers was the social norm as well as the picture theatre. Other agents were Winchcombe Carson’s & Dalgety’s along with private agents Ray Geisel & Co who was an agent for Australian Estates & Dick Travers who sold properties & real estate. Australian Estates were also there for a while.

Col Young managed Dalgety’s with Boyd Wise & Terry Wells & Jim Carter for a short time & Jeff Bloomfield was there I think when I arrived but only for a short time. Jack Lalor was the manager at Winchcombe’s along with Mike Kerr & Peter Lalor.

Mike Blume was the Mactaggart’s Tara Branch manager with Dave Lupton stock salesman & myself as merchandise/stock. Nancy Hoskins was the office lady who kept us all in line. Her husband had a wool & hide business. They later had their own Agency business & CRT. I arrived in Tara about two weeks after the previous Mactaggart’s manager was sadly killed in a car accident at Wilkie Creek on the Dalby Kogan road coming home late at night from a Dalby sale I believe.

Mactaggart’s had purchased the business from Terry Charles & appointed him manager. Some may remember Phillip Charles in Wandoan who was an insurance agent for quite some years. He was Terry Charles son only a young lad when I was in Tara. Cattle & Sheep sales were held in saleyards out on the Chinchilla road & also special cattle sales at a property ‘Wilga’ Meandarra / Westmar / Flinton owned by Bert Meacle. I must tell a story that I get reminded of every time I drive over Wilkie Creek on the Kogan road & the Moonie Highway. It has to do with John Deane. Prior to going to Tara I worked as the clerk for a few months at the Mactaggart’s hide store (Mactaggart’s produce department) at Tenerife on the Bulimba Wharves. Tough mob of guys down there!!

Butchers would send their hides & tallow to the hide store for auction. John Deane was the auctioneer & Digger Jowett was the department manager. “Mr Wilike” was a client account & I remember the name. He was created by the storemen & packers who handled the hides & tallow & it was a 20 for the client & 1 for “Mr Willkie”. They would accumulate quite a few hides each week. Anyway Johnny Deane cracked the scheme I believe he tried to contact the client & the staff involved were caught out. Doug Mactaggart was very impressed with John. He was Doug’s blond haired boy but a great guy, very capable & a great asset to the company. He did very well in Real estate on the Gold Coast after leaving Mactaggart’s.

Back to Tara, I was pretty green & just a young smart agent but learnt a lot at the Tara Branch. Mike Blume hadn’t long taken over as the branch manager he was the stock salesman with Terry Charles & had come over from Miles to Tara. He married a Tara girl the lovely Toni O’Connell whose dad owned the local sawmill. Dave Lupton had come down from Clermont after being at the Kingaroy branch. Dave & I lived in the second company house in Day Street. He was the cook I was the cleaner. The company car was a Volkswagen with the ‘football’ on the door. Dave & I got along well & remain the best of friends to today (55 years of friendship) Dave married Mary Daniels the Kingaroy office girl in Jim Conley’s & Jerry O’Sullivan’s day. His dad was the Anglican Archbishop of Toowoomba but you wouldn’t think so at the parties!!!!

Dave left Mactaggart’s while in Tara & moved to Toowoomba into hardware then many years in the Toowoomba Fire Brigade. A fellow Mitch Achilles from Chinchilla replaced Dave. Didn’t get along with him but he was only there for five minutes. I got more into the stock side of things & got well educated on sheep & cattle. Even had a few pigs to sell.

One highlight was the arrival of South Australians & Victorians from the Mallee country who flew up to inspect properties that were for sale. This was a great interest to Mike Blume & he sold many properties in the Tara & Meandarra districts. That’s how the dry land farming started in the Tara / Meandarra district. The buyers came up in plane loads.

Mactaggart’s had a strong wool business & I learnt quickly about wool & took an interest in wool classing. Actually won a wool classing competition at a Tara Show. Got involved in the Young Country Party (mostly party interest) & played Polocrosse for Tara as did Mike Blume. Through the Young Country Party I met my wife & best friend of 52 years Bernadette Hart. Her dad was the local Holden Dealer. Around mid 1968 I was transferred to the Finance Department in Mactaggart’s Head Office, Brisbane for a few months before being sent to Kingaroy. A wealth of experience at Tara.

“Some pics here of the property buyers & the company house I lived in as well as a pic of some branch guys at a Merchandise Conference in Brisbane Jo Keppel from Wandoan branch, Fred Litchfield from Miles branch & Bob Nicholson the Mactaggart’s HO Manager at the pool, not sure who the other fellow is. Also the Chinchilla News re Terry Charles.” (Click an Image)

Mactaggart’s H/O Finance Dept 1968

After spending around six months in Mactaggart’s Brisbane Head Office Finance Department in the first half of 1968 after I was transferred from Tara I asked Judith Walls if I could speak with Mr Heading as I was looking to get back to a country branch. Mr (Jim) Heading called me in & asked the usual questions how I was doing in Finance & where I thought I might go in the company etc then I asked about being transferred to a country branch as I was getting married & as I was a country boy would like to set up home in a country town. The reaction from JH was ‘what do you want to get married for your only a young fella’. Well I guess he was wanting to help and said he would get back to me in a week.

I enjoyed the Finance Department & learnt a lot about stock mortgages plant & machinery valuations & livestock mortgages as well as profit & loss accounts etc. etc. which has helped financially throughout my entire working life. Spen Waite was the Finance Manager a retired National Bank (NAB) manager & there was me & two girls. Another senior finance guy came along not long after I was transferred. During my second stint in Brisbane I lived in a Boarding house out at Ashgrove then a short time in a flat at Auchenflower. I got engaged to Bernadette when in Tara so weekends involved a bit of travel mainly Bernie coming to Brisbane as I had sold my car to buy an engagement ring (true story), she had a car. Jim Heading call me back into his office a week after our meeting regarding a transfer & said I was going to Kingaroy.

Mactaggart’s Kingaroy – 1968 to 1970.

Pretty happy about that. Never been to Kingaroy but knew a bit about the town & district & Bernie & I both thought it would be a good town to start our life together in. So in October 1968 I arrived in Kingaroy & Mactaggart’s put me up at the Broadway Hotel for a month until I found accommodation which I did in a flat with I think Jerry O’Sullivan & some blokes from the DPI (Jerry will know??) Jerry was the auctioneer stock salesman at Mactaggart’s Kingaroy Branch along with Bill Angus & Frank Law was the Branch manager.

Dennis Cook (a local) was the Merchandise guy or came there soon after me. Marilyn Fritz & Jeanette Watts were the very capable office girls. Jimmy Gibbs was also there in the merchandise & stock for a time. I was stock & merchandise.

The early days in Kingaroy are a bit hazy but I had a good time in my final days as a bachelor plenty of parties & so on (I’m sure Jerry can vouch for that). I was introduced to the pig & calf sales straight up & I must say I enjoyed them.

Jerry O’Sullivan was a great auctioneer not just his presentation but he was always spot on with his values & it was with that trait that he commanded the respect of the buyers & I could see that right from my early days at pig & calf sale in Kingaroy. I wanted to be an auctioneer too so not long after coming to Kingaroy I went to the Court House in Kingaroy Street and applied for a general auctioneer’s license. It promptly arrived in the mail a couple of weeks later. Under Jerry I began selling calves.

Murray’s Auctioneering were the big Pig & calf agents & Neville Aderman was their auctioneer & a good one. Ralph Argue again an excellent auctioneer sold for Dalgety’s & Arthur Freeman sold for Freeman’s Estates. Cattle sales were held monthly at the site where the wheat silos are now. McTaggart’s Boondooma cattle sales were held a couple of times a year which were a special event at the time yarding quality cattle from the local area around Durong.

I sold the odd pen as I was learning the trade under Jerry. Kingaroy was a good learning curve for me even though I learnt a bit about the agency game in Tara I certainly got the hang of it in Kingaroy & then Murgon. I conducted quite a few ‘paddock’ sales (or private sales) in Kingaroy & enjoyed the bartering that came with that type of sale. I don’t remember a lot of the deals but Jerry does!!

Over the years when Jerry & I meet up Jerry always has a story about a paddock sale I did. Like

Barry you remember taking such & such out to look at those Hereford cross steers & they brought them & then sold them at such & such sale & they made good money out of them.. yes Jerry.. well not really“.

He has a brilliant memory that we all are so fortunate he has. He remembers many of the sales but sadly I don’t. Ok back to Mactaggart’s Kingaroy branch. Frank Law the branch manager was a good people manager & I could see the business growing. The Monday Pig & calf sales were important to the local economy as after the sale the vendors would collect their sale proceeds cheque & go down town & spend it. Tuesdays were Murgon Pig & Calf sale days so early Tuesday mornings off to Murgon we went with Jerry & Frank Law stopping at the Wondai Sale yards to sell the pigs & calves on offer then on to Murgon. The Tingoora Hotel was a must stop on our return to Kingaroy. Many an hour spent there. Mactaggart’s special agent in Murgon was Hiscock & Co who they brought out during my time in Kingaroy (1969 or may have been 1970). 

In April 1969 Bernadette & I got married as you did in those days & set up our first home in 36 First Avenue Kingaroy just down the street from the McTaggart’s Managers house where Frank Law & his wife Rosemary lived. Later Jerry O’Sullivan lived there. Filled the house up with furniture from Carrick’s Furniture Brisbane & electrical stuff like the B&W TV & refrigerator from Kingaroy Electrical in Haly Street (Chris Robbins was the salesman who sold us the fridge & TV & has been an advertising client of mine in Betta Electrical for 25 years). Those early days setting up home in Kingaroy were magic but of course we had to go through the ‘tin kettling’ where after a couple of months settled into our first home the ‘boys’ & the girls who were supposed to be our friends came to our place at midnight full as chooks & took all our furniture & beds out of the house & placed it on the front lawn. Ha Ha Hah. Bernadette got a job with Bond & Dawson the Ford dealers in Kingaroy. Life was good & so was my job with Mactaggart’s.

Mactaggart’s Murgon – 1970 to 1972

Around October 1970 after Mactaggart’s had purchased Hiscock & Co in Murgon I was transferred to the new Murgon Sub-Branch as stock salesman with Ron Taylor (RIP) as the officer in charge the office girl was Dianne Zelinski & later Maree Kuhn.

Murgon was a sub Branch operated under Kingaroy. It was some years before it became a separate branch on its own. So we packed up & did our first house move. Curtains Removals did the job & we moved to Stephens Street Murgon. (Just a side story Bernadette lost her wedding ring during the packing for the move to Murgon but John Curtin who did the packing, when we told him, went through all the packing paper when he got back to Kingaroy & yep he found the ring).

I excelled at the Mactaggarts Murgon sub branch & did a bit more selling with Jerry by my side. I did have trouble with values but that did greatly improve in later years & with more experience. I honed my ‘paddock’ sale skills & had a very good relationship with the clients. Murgon was on the up & up Ron Taylor (RIP) was a good local bloke who knew everyone & old Bill Hiscock was very well respected. His son Ken was with Bill in the business but left to become a very good cattle buyer & later a successful cattleman with a number of properties. 

Our son Tim (named after a great Mactaggarts man Tim Clifford who was in Kilcoy at the time) was born in Kingaroy in February 1971 not long after we went to Murgon. A big flood was on & I had to take the long way from Murgon to Kingaroy down the Goomeri Nanango road with a bag over the radiator of the company car to get through Barkers Creek to the hospital in Kingaroy. A big lot of water for quite some distance.

We had a house move in Murgon as the first house we moved into got sold so we moved straight over the road in Stephens Street. Really learnt the value of canvassing in Murgon & how visiting farmers on their own turf was appreciated & got business. Australian Estates were strong in Goomeri & Pratt & Co were private agents in Murgon & agents for Estates. Buck Pratt was the owner of B D Pratt & Co & Earl Pratt was his son (my son) & a top auctioneer. They are still operating in Murgon with Earls son Paul now running the business.

We became good friends of Earl & Rita Pratt they became our first daughter’s god parents. The other agents in Murgon were J S Micken where Bob Micken was the auctioneer & South Burnett Livestock owned by Tony Bone & Ned Turner. I remember being involved with taking clients to Braford Bull sales and selling quite a few in the paddock. Brafords were an emerging cattle breed at the time & I enjoyed my involvement in promoting them to my Mactaggart’s clients.

New cattle selling yards were built during my time at Murgon, that was a good cattle selling centre & growing. Cattle were drawn locally & from Proston & Gayndah. It was a ticky area so dipping out was required to clean country. Two top yard man I can recall were Bub Kennedy & Robert Hatherell both top cattlemen. The Murgon Meatworks were in full operation in my days there. Been closed since the late ‘90, s my Murgon days weren’t all that long a couple of years, then I got my first branch at Surat. Mactaggart’s Kingaroy & Murgon were formidable days for a young married agent who learnt the ropes as an agent with the help of some very good personal clients along with my work colleagues Frank Law, Jerry O’Sullivan & Ron Taylor.

“Murgon & Kingaroy Photos” (Click an Image)

Mactaggart’s Surat – 1972 to 1976

After a great time in Murgon I got a call late one afternoon in November 1972 from either Jim Heading or Derek Andersen. I think it was Derek to say they would like me to go to Surat to manage the Mactaggart’s Surat Branch. Well can’t remember my reaction but I’m sure the news would have excited me. Of course after discussing the transfer with my wife Bernie we were looking forward to the move & the promotion. I was called to Head Office along with about six other fellows who were also moving to new branches to go through a few HO matters. Unfortunately I cannot recall who the others were or the branches involved. There was a Country Life photo & story but I don’t have it. So we packed up again & Curtains Removals from Kingaroy again did the furniture moving from Murgon to Surat. I took the company HQ Holden car I had in Murgon to Surat as it was only new. A yellow one that I wrote off in an accident in Roma.

I spent a month at the New Royal Hotel in Surat (it burnt down in 1977 after I left Surat) to get familiar with the branch operation but only spent a day with Mike Rippen the manager as he had to go up to the Clermont branch to get sorted there as the new manager. Mike I remember was a bit disappointed to be leaving the Surat Branch as he had built it up over a couple of years . He had the house, office all updated and painted so everything was pretty good for me to take over. Prior to Mike Rippen the Surat branch manager was Lloyd Taylor who later had his own Agency & Property Real Estate business in Moura. There were other managers over the years that others may recall.

From the veranda of the New Royal I could see over to the office. Mike Rippen was a great fellow and a good agent. He left the fold & brought a news agency some years later. After Christmas in January 1973 we moved to Surat. Bernie was expecting our second child. It was a great time in Surat both from a business point and socially until the beef crash. Lots of canvassing & paddock sales of sheep & cattle and a good wool business.

Part of the job was going up to Roma (60Ks) every Monday afternoon to help John Molony of John Molony & Co draft cattle for the Tuesday fat & store cattle sales. John Molony who was the Manager of Elders Roma had resigned from Elders & started his own Stock Agent & Real estate business. He was a special agent for Mactaggart’s I believe 50/50 on sale commissions. John had great respect with both clients & other agents and an excellent auctioneer. He had quite a good cattle business. I would stay at John & Judy Molony’s house in Roma on the Monday night after drafting & be up sale morning at 5 to finish drafting as the sale would start at 9am.

That was providing a fellow called Peter Knauer from AML&F in Toowoomba was there on time, if not the sale wouldn’t start until he got there and during many sales would buy for at least 6 or 8 or more accounts. They called him ‘Feather’ just a light touch!! The Roma sales were great with long days if you were the duty agent but good quality cattle & large numbers in those days nothing like today though. Quite a lot of cattle were trucked out on the train going east. Other agents selling at the Roma Saleyards were Winchcombe Carson’s, Australian Estates, Dalgety’s, Primaries & AML&F… John Moloney special agent for Mactaggart’s was the only private agent. Watkins & Co were in Wallumbilla along with Australian Estates. Anderson’s Meat Works were operational in Roma during my time. John Molony would let me sell the odd pen from time to time and he was a good mentor to me.

We got along well, unfortunately the grog got him, but he was a good agent. One time I drove up from Surat to get a quote on a new company car & on my way out to the Ford Dealer on the Mitchell Road a lady failed to give way & cleaned me up & wrote off the company car. My first & last car accident. John Maloney came to the rescue & after the accident at 10 in the morning we were at the School of Arts (the Roma agents pub) John having a beer me a lemonade.

Ok so I had Roma sales every Tuesday & also organized a couple of sheep sales at Surat out on ‘Noorindoo’ station off the Glenmorgan road. Bill & Margaret Lee owned ‘Noorindoo’. The quality of the sheep at these sales was very good. The Surat district was excellent country the Bauhinia country was the best & grew top sheep & produced excellent fine to medium wool. The clientele was a mix of sheep & wool & cattle often sending cattle to the Oakey branch Brideson & Co who Mactaggart’s had brought out. Also had a couple of cattle & sheep dealers like a client who owned ‘Echo Hills’ south east of Surat who turned over a lot of cattle, but like many got caught with a few in the ’74 crash. 

Dalgety’s were the only other agent in town but Primaries had some good clients like the Nason families but serviced the area from Roma. (Alex Nason was the Surat Shire chairman & later the Board chairman of Primac) Tony Wilshire was the Dalgety’s manager & we got on very well & his wife Judy & my wife Bernadette were great friends spending many outings with the kids. MacTaggart’s financed a number of clients to buy cattle & finish them as well as sheep to grow wool & this was solid business. But of course that ’74 cattle crash changed that. Up until then Surat branch was a good profitable business.

The Great Crash & the Merger 1974/75

On Roma I have to relay the true story of how I saw the cattle crash in 1974. John Molony often had drafts of cattle from a place north of Mitchell called ‘Forestvale’. Well one week he had four pens of 2 year old steers from ‘Forestvale’ that started the sale & fetched around $280 maybe $300. The next week he had another four pens of the same steers from ‘Forestvale’ was second sale so a bit further down the pens & these same steers as the previous week made $94…. that is how much the market had crashed.

After the crash things tightened up expenses & running cost had to be cut & were like less car & phone use etc. Then came the merger with Primaries which I thought was an excellent arrangement & something like this had to happen to save Mactaggart’s & I guess to a slightly lesser degree Primaries. Those trucks of cattle that Mactaggart’s financed to clients to finish off were hit hardest eg a truck of weaner steers that cost $12,000 just before the crash were now worth say $3,000. Not good but who would have known there was no blame here.

I remember Jim Heading ringing me not long after the crash talking about cutting expenses & saying ‘remember this cattle crash as you won’t ever see the likes of it again’….very true words. After the Primaries Mactaggart’s merger I still went up to the Roma cattle sales but to assist Arthur Walmsley, Brian Hickey & David Milford the Primaries staff, the auctioneer was Norm East. John Moloney then concentrated his business more on real estate. I remember not long after the merger David Milford being promoted to branch manager at Gin Gin a Mactaggart’s branch & wasn’t he excited. I think he is still in Gin Gin or around there.

Had a great social life in Surat quite a few our age on properties & school teachers. We’d party quite often on Friday & Saturday nights till the wee hours with the kids asleep in the car. Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night & Clearance Clearwater Revival was the choice of music & the louder the better. Our first daughter Rebecca was born while we were in Surat but borne in the Dalby Hospital as the local doctor was on holidays & we had a family doctor we knew in Dalby. Only had the one office girl in Surat who was Mandy?? & her husband was a teller at the local Bank of Sydney branch. It was at their house I first saw colour TV a cricket test match. The Golf Club was a regular social outing as well as the odd game of gulf was an excellent course sad to see it closed today.

Great time in Surat good clients good friends. In December 1976 got the call from Jim Heading to say I was being transferred to Dirranbandi first Manager to go from a Mactaggart’s branch to a Primaries branch. So Gorman Removals from Rockhampton moved us to Dirran. We were becoming nomadic not staying very long in one place & that nomadic life for us continued & some years ago we went back to Caravanning (we had a caravan in Dirranbandi & Tenterfield) which we do today & that my friends satisfies our wanting to move on.

“Surat Photos”

Primaries Mactaggart’s Dirranbandi – 1976 to 1978

My Dirranbandi Branch days with Primaries Mactaggart’s were some of my best. I was the first manager from a Mactaggart’s Branch to be transferred to a Primaries Branch after the merger. That was a culture shock. I replaced Les Dustan who went to Branch Manager at Cunnamulla. (Sometimes I would fly to Cunnamulla to sell at the cattle sales there I think it was when the branch auctioneer or Les were away or on holidays).

The loyalty of the clients was unbelievable in Dirran & the friendship & social times with the other agents was great. Scotty & Rosemary Andersen at AML& F Ken & Marilyn Booth Dalgety’s & Jim & Jenny Brown Winchcombe Carson’s (Jim was transferred to Warwick) then Ray & Donna Lewis at Winchcombe’s. Australian Estates had closed their office before my time. All just lovely people with great respect for each other. Memorable times in Dirran 1976 to ‘78.

Ballandool Sheep Sales at Hebel were a highlight some of the best sheep in the district were sold there. Couple of pics here of sheep at a Ballandool Sale. Jack & Thelma Hammond owned ‘Ballandool’ & were marvellous clients. Jack became the Shire president of the Balonne Council in St George in the early ‘80s. Cattle sales were held in an old set of yards on the edge of town but live weight selling was coming in at other centres so the open auction of cattle was becoming obsolete so cattle sales in Dirran ceased during my time. I established a good relationship with a regular buyer Col Scott from Anderson’s Meat Packing Company & sold Col a lot of cattle over the scales at Wallangarra where AMP had their abattoir, so many were trucked out on the train.

Dennis Scanlon was the livestock manager at Wallangarra & in later years took over from me as the Manager of AML Estates in Tenterfield around 1982. I think he was there when Elders took over & it was Elders AML Estates. He became the QLD livestock manager for Elders if I recall correctly.

I left PM in Dirran & joined AML& F as Branch Manager in Tenterfield. I often wonder why I did that not that there was anything wrong with AML&F they were fantastic but I missed Dirranbandi for a while that loyalty just blew me away. On the selling of a great number of cattle on weight to AMP I got a call one day from Jim Heading suggesting that I should channel more cattle to the Oakey Branch to auction over the scales as the company gets 5% on sales in Oakey & I was only getting two & a half % in the paddock but I explained I was getting not only all our clients cattle but a few of the other agents cattle as well (sorry guys the other agents) as the word got around that the prices were good & it wasn’t a bad way to sell, so anyway Jim didn’t persist.

Another experience on that loyalty side of Primaries that comes to mind. Some will recall that part of the merger deal was that all client insurance policies had to be changed over to CIC (Mactaggart’s underwriters) from CU (Primaries underwriters) which some saw as a major task. Well at the Primaries Dirranbandi branch we converted 100% of clients to CIC insurance some on farm visits but many over the phone. I recall a lot of response was ‘if you think it is right do it’.

Dirranbandi Branch had a fairly big insurance portfolio that was good income. I know the premium commission was pretty big I think around sixty thousand dollars which was big dollars in those days (Farm Packs) I didn’t mind insurance quite liked it. Great loyalty to their agent. PM staff at Dirranbandi in my time included Margaret Nolan, Sheila Cox & Fred Morgan. Was a great office/house setup a bit of a shambles now? Be good to know about some of the other Managers at Primaries in Dirranbandi. I recall names like Fred Martin & Peter Lloyd. 

“Dirranbandi Photos”

AML&F Tenterfield – 1978 to 1981

In late 1978 I was for whatever reason getting itchy feet and we thought we would like to move from Dirranbandi to a little more east to a bigger town with better schools. I know now we were wrong but that is what we thought then & as I said before Dirranbandi was good to us & we had a good time there. Tim started school in Dirran at the convent then it closed & he went to the state school which was a good school. Quite a bit closed down in Dirran in our short time there like the baker the chemist the Holden & Ford dealers a drapery store & some others in these tough times.

Anyway I built up a good relationship with the manager of AML& F in Walgett Des Dowling who I had known a little when I was in Tara when he had his own Agency in Condamine Des Dowling & Co. Des brought up a lot of clients to buy sheep in Dirranbandi & at the sheep sales at Ballandool & Malcom Neil & Paul Cato’s on property sheep sales. I mentioned to Des one day that I wouldn’t mind a move from Dirran & he phoned a week or so later to say there was a Managers job going at Tenterfield with AM&F. In short I had a job interview with the AML&F NSW state manager at the Moree ‘Weebollabolla’ shorthorn bull sale & got the Tenterfield job.

I had been talking to Jim Heading about a move but nothing was happening. I mentioned that I wouldn’t mind going to Miles and it came up but I wasn’t offered it. Jim was a bit pissed off when I resigned & I don’t blame him and he offered me Charters Towers but I was committed to Tenterfield.

So in November ‘78 off we went again loaded the furniture etc. into Gormans Furniture Removals hooked up the caravan & off to Tenterfield. The previous manager in Tenterfield had resigned & gone to a private Agency in town & I knew this. He of course took some AML&F business with him but we did get a lot of it back in time. Continue my way of serving clients & getting business through getting out & canvassing & enjoyed my time.

Cattle were good business & we had quite a few fine wool clips in the district. Cattle sales were held fortnightly in an old but serviceable set of sales yards just a couple of blocks from the centre of town. An old opposition from Dalgety’s in Surat Tony Wiltshire returned to Tenterfield to manage his dad’s Agency Wiltshire & Co who were Dalgety Winchcombe agents. So we met up with Tony & Judy again. The other agents in town were Harold Curry & Co the biggest agents & Bailey Dearden.

In 1980 new steel cattle sale yards with live weight selling were built by the Tenterfield Council & opened in July 1980. I was privileged to be the first auctioneer to sell the first pen in those yards. We brought a little property out on the Mount McKenzie road & this seemed to occupy the cold weekends when we were not at kids school soccer games in the freezing wind. It was cold in Tenterfield but we enjoyed it.

By the way I might mention that in early 1980 while in the caravan holidaying at Peregian Beach on the sunny coast I suffered a heart attack at age 31, not a big one just an ‘infarct’ a very small artery at the back of the heart blocked. Why! Too much smoking. Two packs of 20 a day plus a few cigars & a couple of pipes a day just loved it. Anyway changed my ways cut down on the drinking & gave up the smokes – that was the hard part – AML&F were very good had 6 months off to recover (mainly from withdrawal from smoking). We parked the caravan down at Ballana on the beach & it was our weekender when we could use it. Our youngest daughter Melissa was born in Tenterfield ten months after my rest up from the heart attack. That’s tells you something ha hah. Joined my first Rotary Club in Tenterfield.

AML&F were a great company very similar to McTaggart’s with great staff & loyal clients. I was in Tenterfield when AML&F brought out Australian Estates & became AML Estates. I left a few months before Elders came on the scene & it became Elders AML Estates. So pretty happy in Tenterfield good job a little bit of good traprock country & life was good.

“Tenterfield, Tara & Miscellaneous photos, licences etc.”

Tara Car Dealership – 1981 to 1984

Then news came that Bernie’s father Charlie Hart had recovered well from open heart surgery but now had throat cancer so we decided to heed the call & go back to Tara to manage the Hart Family’s Holden & Suzuki Dealership, this was November 1981.

Ok we moved from Tenterfield to Tara & I began selling Holden’s & Suzuki’s. First up it was going great guns but then interest rates climbed to 24% & GMH in all their wisdom decided not to make the Statesman & the Holden Ute. Well that was our main market along with Commodores. We started getting Landcruisers from Ski fleet in Ipswich & the odd Ford Fairlane. Well it just got harder & harder not only from the vehicle supply & high interest rates but also drought & low wool prices & bad wheat crops.

John Moody was the Primac manager in Tara & Terry Lanskey was the manager in Meandarra. I remember selling a pale blue V8 Commodore to Terry. He wrangled something to get a V8. By this time Tim our oldest we had sent to boarding school at Downlands in Toowoomba.

So in ‘84 we sold up & moved to Dalby for a couple of months before I rang Norm Jenner at Primac in Toowoomba looking for a job back in the agency game. On my interview with Norm he offered me two positions one as the auctioneer stockman in Goondiwindi or merchandise manager in Charleville. He mentioned that there was a good opportunity in the Charleville branch as they had just refurbished the office with the maroon & cream colours & new shelving & the guy there (Peter Bosanko who took a job with Sunbeam the shearing supply company) was just building up the merchandise business & Primac were wanting to expand their merchandise business. Went back to Dalby to think about it & on discussion with the family decided on Charleville, it was October 1984.

Primac Charelville – 1984 to 1987

Spent a couple of weeks at 99 Creek Street getting familiar with the Primac operations & people. A lot still there from before. Had a few meetings with Dereck Anderson & a run through the merchandise department & accounts etc then back to Dalby & off to Charleville Branch.

I had picked up a new Commodore sedan for the manager as I was to take his car when I got there. I spent a couple of weeks at the Cattle Camp Hotel Motel then the family arrived & we settled in. Yep we loved Charleville both our daughters went to school there before we sent Rebecca to Downlands with Tim (Had a few years paying off boarding school fees but it gave them stability as we were moving a lot).

The social life was good & I just loved that merchandise job. I exceeded in the merchandise at Charleville but I did have a few things going for me the season was very good the wool market had kicked & the cattle market was very good & all the cockies had a bob. It was a bit of a boom time on the land so I made hay while the sun was shining.

I ran a very successful ‘just in time’ operation so our stock turnover was extremely high the best in the state along with our GP percentage. I did quite a bit of canvassing & gained a lot of business off the other agent’s clients. Offered good service had the product or got it overnight advertised in the local paper & on the local Radio Station & had a ball. Had a reputation of being the cheapest in town but we sold at full retail 30% plus.

Sold heaps of fencing gear & sheds there was money being spent on improvements & new owners buying in. Also got involved a bit with insurance & that was good. A bit of a skite here but I was proud of the job I did. When I went to Primac in Charleville Peter Bosanko had done a good job & the display area of the office was excellent and the turnover for the previous year for the branch merchandise was $175 thousand. When I left three years later it was over $2 million. I just took advantage of the money that was about & used my selling skills.

Don Swan was the CEO of Primac at the time & he came out to Charleville once not sure what for & we had a dinner with the staff at the RSL. Don’t think I had a lot of time for him he didn’t impress me on his visit. Staff at Primac Charleville in my time were Garry Baker branch manager & property, Ken Telford stock salesman, Bruce Shepherd merchandise, Robyn Clayton office & Gavin Harris, for a short time took over from Garry Baker when he went to Rockhampton.

Chris Hamilton took over from me, but I had already left before he arrived. Great experience in Charleville. A new manager arrived when Garry Baker took a position in Rockhampton as CQ property manager who took an instant dislike to me (fair enough I ran my own show) & thus I was off again a transfer as merchandise manager to Biloela.

Primac Biloelia – 1987

In mid 1987 I transferred from Charleville to Biloela Branch as Merchandise Manager. Didn’t really want to leave Charleville but Biloela looked good so off we went on the move again. Biloela was a bit of a mixed bag, certainly a learning curve with seed and fertiliser thrown into the merchandising mix. I had had little to do with farming from an agent’s prospectus except for fodder crops.

Anyway, we lived in Bilo and the job was good but Primac were changing the way we were to do business with over-educated consultants advising and the ‘Swan’ era in swing.   When you’re told that ‘Primac has this fantastic name and everyone knows the Primac service etc., so you are to cut back on the cost of doing the business – less phone contact – less car canvassing’ & other what I considered unnecessary cutbacks.  Soon the ‘Primac way’ was quickly changing and in my opinion in a negative direction.  After six months in Biloela I resigned and moved (again) to the Sunshine Coast.

Real Estate – 1988

We had a unit at Mooloolaba so we put our furniture in storage and I started in real estate as the Auctioneer and Salesman for The Professionals at Maroochydore, owned and run by Ross Tucker, an old Mactaggart’s man who had managed Mitchell, Miles and Rockhampton branches in the 60’s and 70’s. Great guy Ross and he had a tidy real estate business.  He had regular Saturday morning house and property auctions and I had great satisfaction being the auctioneer and knocking down quite a few properties. It was good and fun, but the selling of real estate was a pain – I had listings as long as your arm but had great difficulty with buyer inspections and ‘tyre kickers’.  I just didn’t have the patience – I needed the sale then and there – like an auction. Real Estate just wasn’t for me.

After a bit of ‘beach bumming’ I looked around for something else and applied for a couple of jobs.  One with a Feed Mill in Wagga Wagga as QLD Manager – supplying and servicing poultry farmers up and down the Queensland coast and the other as Field Officer with the Queensland Grain Growers Association based in Kingaroy.   Had interviews with both organisations and got both jobs so had to choose. Yep! – you guessed it ‘Kingaroy here we come’.   Our decision was purely based on the fact that we wanted to get back to the bush.   The feed job entailed living in Brisbane (there was a lot of flying involved up north).  So the choice was easy to move back to Kingaroy, our old town. There was of course more than just Kingaroy.

QGGA Kingaroy – Field Officer – 1988 to 1989

The QGGA position was right up my alley – back to servicing cockies – more so farmers now not graziers.   Also the QGGA was a great organisation and I was very impressed by Don McKechnie (Chairman) and George Howen (General Manager) at the time of the interview in Toowoomba and the prospect of working for the association. I was familiar with the insurance side of the QGGA as I had encountered them when selling motor vehicles in Tara in the early 80’s.  A lot of farmers had their vehicles insured with the QGGA.

We arrived in Kingaroy in October 1988 and settled in the job.  We were elated to be back in Kingaroy after many years and we were close to our eldest Tim and Rebecca who were at Downlands College in Toowoomba, which made it easier for us to travel to see them. Kingaroy was and is handy to Brisbane and the coast and had all the services and was country.  That is what we wanted at the time. Our youngest daughter Melissa attended school in Kingaroy. Did I Like the QGGA Field Officer Job?  I loved it and excelled at it so much that 12 months later I had a call from Don McKechnie wanting me to go to Toowoomba to manage the Field Services department for the QGGA.

Here’s the thing – we didn’t want to leave Kingaroy, like we didn’t really want to leave Charleville a couple of years before.  But hey – the position was ‘Smick’ so I could hardly knock it back – off we go again pack up and move to Toowoomba.  It did suit in other ways at the time as it meant we could send our eldest daughter to Downlands as a day student and our youngest daughter was about to start high school and she could also go to Downlands as a day student.  It was important at the time and of course a great saving. Son Tim left Downlands at the end of ’89 just after we moved to Toowoomba.

QGGA Toowoomba – Field Services Manager 1989 to 1991

It was all “Rock N Roll’ with the QGGA in Toowoomba. Just a great lot of people to work with and some good people as field officers in Toowoomba – Dalby – Kingaroy – Goondiwindi and Emerald – Rockhampton & Biloela. I had many responsibilities other than overseeing field activities, namely member branches and branch meetings – membership – grain trading (Elders were the traders) and organising the annual Conferences and Sponsorships. Lots of reports – lots of meetings. Bernadette, my wife, worked in the Life and Health Insurance department of the QGGA. Bernie got the job on our moving to Toowoomba. A fabulous time for the first 18 months then “CRASH” down it come.

“Barry Dixon’s time with the QGGA”

The QGGA woke up one morning to discover what blind Freddy new – that the membership of the association was less than they thought and that they were quickly running of our money. A long story short. Don McKechnie had retired and Ian McFarlane was the President (Chairman) of the QGGA and it was a fact that the association could not survive in its current make up.  Thus, a couple of years later, Agforce came into being – combining the QGGA – The UGA (United Graziers Association) and the CU (Cattleman’s Union). Many QGGA staff were given notice – myself included.   The QGGA and the Board were very good to me in my exit and assisted very well in my next endeavour – starting my own business.

CMP Services Toowoomba 1991 to 1996

Having organised the QGGA Annual Conference twice and very successfully with regard to securing sponsorship from industry suppliers and also in my role as Field Services Manager I was responsible for promoting the organisation to members.   I considered myself as a bit of a ‘Promoter” so decided that now was the time to be my own boss.   The QGGA provided me with an office, phone and a car park and away I went. My daughter Rebecca was my secretary for a time on commencing business.  As I said the combining of the other organisations into ‘Agforce’ hadn’t yet happened – it was a couple of years away.

I had the QGGA Annual Conference to start with and then approached and succeeded in obtaining other grower organisations to employ my services to organise their conferences and conventions and source sponsorship on their behalf.   I called my business CMP Services (Conference Management and Promotions). My fee was by way of 20% of the gross amount of sponsorship obtained as well as a per capita fee per attendee. Grower organisations such as the United Graziers, the Cattleman’s Union, Australia Pork Producers, The Peanut Association, The Fisherman’s Association, The Queensland Farmers Federation, the Australia Cane Farmers, Australian Avocado Conference the Australian Pork Producers, The Sale Yards Association, the Qld Flower Growers Association, the Nuffield Scholarship plus others.

“Barry Dixon’s CMP Services”

I also sourced sponsorship for other entities such as The University of New England, Beef ’97, Tread Lightly (an environmental organisation) plus others. Sponsors included Banks, Chemical Companies, Insurance Companies, Fertilizer Companies, Seed Companies, Government Departments, Transport Companies. Any supplier to the particular industry or entity we were involved with was approached with a sponsorship proposal folder setting out the benefits of sponsoring the particular Event. I commenced in 1991 and the business grew quickly, and we diversified into other promotions such as Calendars and Wall Planners, printing, and promotional products.  All went very well. I used my skills that I learnt as a stock agent to sell the benefits of sponsoring an organisation and obtaining thousands of dollars for my many clients. 

So the associations and the sponsors were my clients. All went well until about 1996 when sponsorship started to dwindle and Ag force came into being.  The 90’s drought was biting hard and the rural sector and sponsors were becoming despondent with the dwindling support from members of the organisations they were sponsoring & supporting.  So, I started looking for some diversification for the business. We employed a couple of secretaries – my wife – my son Tim and our two daughters Rebecca & Melissa who was still at school often lent a hand, plus a couple of part-time phone canvassers, one being John Moody who had retired to Toowoomba and a guy called Alan Ryan. Also I should mention that Jerry O’Sullivan who was the main man for Hyland seeds gave me tremendous support with sponsorship to the QGGA and at times was good to run things by & seek advice.   

So what could we do to keep CMP Services going with a downturn in the sponsorship to our main grower organisations? We started to look outside the rural sector and did business with a few others in the corporate area but sponsorship was getting more difficult to obtain. Toowoomba was a good place to live & we had some great times there. I got involved with Rotary at the invitation of that great man Norm Jenner & struck up a nice friendship with Norm away from our previous association in the workplace in the Primac days. Toowoomba South Rotary Club was a very strong club in those days with some really great businesspeople involved which didn’t do my business any harm when we went into FM Radio.

My relaxation was mainly by way of target shooting which I took up when in Charleville. I shot most weekends and attended many away club shoots. It became a family sport when son Tim & daughter Melissa also took up the sport. I also held down a part time job in Toowoomba which I really enjoyed. That was with MSS Security. My main security locations were the University of Southern Queensland & the Myer Store also did a couple of Farm Fests & Ag Shows. Helped supplement the income in the early days of starting the business.

I must say we were getting a bit sick of the Hotel living and being away every second week doing an event. Every hotel room was the same & the food all the same a bit of a false environment but we had great connections with the Hotels which we needed to hold events. I think I was at the cutting edge of Event organising & Sponsorship it seems everyday stuff today but was an expert’s job back then. We opened a Brisbane office in the Port Authority building in Ann Street which was a help in gaining more corporate business & to better service the Clients Sponsors. Trade displays were an integral part of all the Conference & Convention Events and we became expert at arranging Trade Displays & satisfying sponsor’s needs at these Events. We purchased a Unit at Moorooka in South Brisbane to accommodate our stays in Brisbane which later on also served as an office.

FM Radio Stations – 1996 to Current

Then, one day in mid 1996 a letter arrived on my desk from a guy at Maroochydore who had an FM Radio Licence for sale in Toowoomba and all the latest computer technology to operate it. A bit of joke around the office (we had moved out of the QGGA building in 1992 and obtained office space in Webster Place in Margaret Street Toowoomba) ‘Lets buy a radio station’ Ha! Ha!!! And I screwed up the letter and threw it in the bin. Next morning, I spread the contents of my rubbish bin across my desk to find that letter I had screwed up yesterday. Yep, I slept on the contents of that letter and gave the guy at Maroochydore a call. The long and short of it was that we purchased the FM radio licence in Toowoomba along with the computer equipment, the programme – transmitter and antenna etc and so began my adventure into commercial radio. I could see a dollar in it from the point of view that once the asset was purchased and operating there would be little on-going costs – sure we had to pay for announcer production and the usual administration and running costs but basically all we had to do was fill airtime that was already there. What I didn’t realise at the time was that we were at the cutting edge of automated radio technology using computers to generate sound files and play music. Sure, we had hiccups – lot of hiccups to begin with but we got there.

Launch of City FM Toowoomba 1996

City FM went ‘on air’ in Toowoomba in October 1996. Errol Morrison and Graham Webb were our main announcers who recorded their programs on computers hard drives – the biggest being 1.5 giga bytes in those days. Errol would come into the office to record his program and ads and Graham did his sound files from his home on the Gold Coast.  Graham would send his files to us on a hard drive via Fastaway Couriers. Today we have part time announcers & voice people who live at the Sunshine Coast Brisbane the Gold Coast & Wodonga who do their recordings at home & send via e mail. Oh technology!! Without going into the finer details of production in the early days, I had various announcers come into the studio to record sound files, announcements and ads.  

Today they all do it from home and email their sound files and ads and of course drives are now in the Tierra bytes and computers at lightening speed. I must say, computers were invented for sound and automated radio – with the package of transmitter – computers and the transmission antenna we did the operation programme and 800 hit songs from the 60’s (today we have 4,000 songs from the 50’s, 60’s,70’s and 80’s along with 4,000 country music songs from the 60’s to today). All on one computer.    Everything is pre-recorded – nothing live.  Ever since the first two hours into the programming set-up back in October ’96 I have been at the production and programming controls of the transmitting and production computers. I didn’t intend to but took over the reins back then as I was the only one who could make the programming decisions, so I took the seat and am still sitting in it. 

Before we went to air in Toowoomba myself and my son, Tim, went on the streets of Toowoomba and gained over 60 advertisers prior to going to air. A great achievement and a financial success. Looked like FM automated radio was the way to go – a vehicle to make a living.

Kingaroy with Radio K-FM Kingaroy & All Country FM

Then we purchased a FM Licence in Dalby and then Kingaroy (Kingaroy was a big one and cost a bit) but was our ticket to go back there and proved a roaring success. The community and businesspeople in Kingaroy embraced us and the support was overwhelming. We moved back to Kingaroy in 1997, just after doing Beef ’97 and putting Radio K-FM Kingaroy ‘On Air’ followed by a ‘Jazz & Blues’ Station All FM. Which became a Country music Station in Kingaroy ‘All Country FM’ in 2014.

FM Radio Stations at Roma, Gatton and Redcliffe

Radio became our focus and gradually CMP Services ceased operating. We ran a few events after moving to Kingaroy, but radio became our main focus. In the early 2000’s we purchased a FM Licence in Gatton and Roma and put them ‘on air’. We also went into partnership with a licence in Redcliffe ‘Gold’ FM which was a successful station. I enjoyed my time selling advertising & part operating the Redcliffe Station. We sold our interest in mid 2004.

The technology improved as we went but importantly it was sales of advertising that made our success. I have always said that you can have the best sounding and most popular radio station, but it is not worth two bob without the advertisers (the clients). My work slogan was & still is ‘Sitting at a computer won’t earn you a cent’ – you have got to wear out the boot leather to earn a ‘bob’.

St George FM Station

Around 2004 we sold Toowoomba and Dalby and later Gatton and purchased a FM Licence in St George. We sold Radio K-FM Kingaroy and the All Country FM station in early 2021 and now only operate R-FM Roma and 4SG St George.

Maranoa Mail – 2007 to 2015

One other thing we put our hand to was a news publication called The Maranoa Mail that was distributed via Australia Post throughout South West Queensland including Roma to Miles to Mitchell – Charleville to Cunnamulla – Surat – St George & Mungindi & all towns in between. The publication came to being after an approach from Roma business people who were looking for an alternative newspaper.

We settled on a fortnightly colour publication with a wide distribution via Australia Post. We had a couple of very good Editors in Justine Miller & Penelope Arthur & my soul mate Bernadette. The Maranoa Mail commenced its first publication in 2007. It was a great success but its demise in 2015 was as with most print media the lack of advertising as social media took hold. Another endeavour that was a lot of work but reaped great rewards.

Limousin Stud Cattle – Coolabunia 2000 to 2008

Kingaroy has been good over the years. It was our first home in 1969 when we got married was in First Avenue Kingaroy in the early Mactaggart’s days. We have come & gone from Kingaroy four times over the past 52 years so we call it home. In 1999 after returning to Kingaroy & living in town for twelve months and taking up Cruiser motorbike riding with Bernadette as the pillion we joined a couple of clubs like the Ulysses Club and did lots of weekend rides. Then we purchased a small farm which took over from the motorbike cruising.

We purchased a small grazing property at Coolabunia about 15klm from Kingaroy & commenced a Limousin Stud and concentrated on Led Steers with some success in Brisbane & Country Shows. We became very attached to our limo cows & loved the farm. With some sadness we were forced to sell the farm to the Qld Government in 2008 as a new coal mine was to be established for the Tarong Powerhouse & our place was in the buffer zone.

“Grazing property at Coolabunia about 15klm from Kingaroy where we had a Limousin Stud”

St George Irrigation Farm – 2008 to 2012

We sold, got good money and purchased an irrigation farm at St George growing table grapes & taking our Limousin stud with us. I had my first & only experience with the Flying Doctor Service while in St George. Had a major accident with a ride on lawn mower cutting off the top of my foot which entailed a RFDS flight from St George to Toowoomba. Good days at the St George farm but we endured three floods in three years one being a record flood so we were happy to sell & move back to Kingaroy in 2012.

Kingaroy based “Nomads” 2012 to Current

We have done a few overseas trips as you do & probably won’t do again for some time if ever. That is what the Caravan does for us now, gives us the freedom to travel, hit the road with no destination. I had the triple bypass heart operation in 2018 as many of us do at our age & have never felt better and I was one of the lucky ones. I keep in touch with some old Radio colleagues who have helped over the years and who I have employed at times on a casual basis via a group who call themselves RATS (Radio & Television Survivors). We meet three times a year socially.

I still love the selling and programming of the Radio Stations and have kept Roma and St George to semi-retire with as I will always need an interest and something to do to keep me occupied.  Now we just live in Kingaroy, look after our FM stations out west and do lots of caravanning. The old ‘Nomad’ life just keep moving on’ that has been what I have done most during most of my career.  Life is good!

“Barry Dixon Radio Stations”

* Last Updated 23/07/2021 RSS

Posted in : Primac Gurus